Characters: Sam, Dean
Rating: PG 13 (language, violence)
Warnings: Spoilers through 5X3; written entirely before 5X4
Genre: gen, h/c
Disclaimer: Not mine
Word Count: 11778 (both parts)
Author’s Note: Okay, I owe a lot of wonderful people thanks for this one. Thank you to ancastar and geminigrl11 for their suggestions and cheerleading. Thanks to mara_snh for advice that got me on the right track from the beginning. And a heartfelt thanks to my brilliant beta, callistosh65
Summary: Angry fairies cast Sam and Dean into a deadly forest where they come face to face with what it really means to be brothers.
Excerpt: That voice—it’s got to be some kind of freakin’ fairy glamour because Dean would know that voice anywhere. It’s impossible—maybe they’re not dealing with fairies at all. Maybe they’re dealing with badass demons or a trickster or even Lucifer himself because it’s not possible that the little boy voice could belong to anyone else but—
“Sammy?” Dean whispers.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Don’t screw with fairies.
Dad used to announce that every time he came back from another fairy hunt in a piss-poor mood. After he was out of earshot—in the shower, getting wasted or whatever—Dean would repeat it over again and again in every voice he could come up with. It was all very satisfying because Sammy would laugh himself sick—once even to the point of throwing up. That was pretty awesome.
As a smartass fourteen-year-old, Sam had Dad’s warning made into a bumper sticker and presented it proudly to Dean on his eighteenth birthday.
Dad didn’t think it was very funny.
If Dad was here, they would have to sit through the most epic Told You So of all time, and they would have deserved every minute of it. But honest to God, Dean doesn’t remember a thing about any random fairy curses involving killer plants or he’d never have let Sam go near those ferns in the first place.
Sam is obviously trying to hold it together while Dean cleans the wound, but he holds his breath every time Dean digs a little deeper. Dean knows it hurts but he’s trying his best to flush out all the forest crap that somehow ended up under Sam’s skin.
Sam says, “It hurts too much for what it is. I don’t know…maybe poison… it’s burning. I think there was something—ouch, damnit, don’t rub it so hard— something poisonous on the blade.”
“Sammy—you got attacked by a fern, not a sword.”
Sam grits out, “That’s what you call that part of a fern, you idiot. The blade is part of the frond.”
“What the hell’s a prond?”
Sam flinches. “Frond, not prond—you know, the pointy part. Shit, that hurts…”
There was a time when Dean would’ve never let Sam hear the end of it—the geek knows the parts of a fern. But this isn’t one of those times. They aren’t easy with each other any more, not any more, not since Lucifer. They are still fighting on the same side, hunting when they can, but everything is different. Dean is empty, and Sam has changed. Dean doesn’t believe they’ll ever be the same. He’s not going to get his little brother back again.
“Hold still, Sam. I gotta wash it out.”
Sam sucks in a big gasp of a breath and holds it while Dean trickles peroxide over the wound. It dribbles down Sam’s side, getting his jeans wet, but it can’t be helped. It’s so cold, what with the fog that seems to be getting even thicker. It had been a beautiful sunny day when they’d started.
“Try holy water.”
“It wasn’t a demonic fern,” Dean mutters, but he pours some holy water out of his flask anyway. It might not help, but it won’t hurt either.
The truth is they have no idea what they’re dealing with. Of course they scanned Dad’s journal before leaving, but all the entries on fairies were pretty vague—more a checklist of how not to piss the little buggers off than what to do once you did. Fairies were apparently very easily miffed.
Dean needs to get the dirt out. He winces at the way Sam’s side looks like it went through a cheese grater. The pronds…fronds...or whatever the hell they’re called... acted like blades the way they slashed at his brother. Dean’s arms are scratched up and a little bit chewed—the ferns fought back when he was trying to pull them off Sam.
Sam says pointedly, “Save some of it for you. You’re still bleeding.”
“I’m fine,” Dean says, uncomfortable with the attention. “Stay here. I’m gonna run a salt line around us, just to be sure."
Sam nods and settles back against the only log in the clearing. Dean already fired a couple rounds of salt into it, just to make sure it wasn’t going to bludgeon them when they turned their back. Reanimation is the oldest trick in the book, but from everything he could see, the log is really and truly dead.
“Be careful,” Sam says, and Dean shrugs, not knowing what to say back. It’s been awkward like this since they started hunting together again. They’re together…but not together. In some ways, this is harder than the time they spent apart.
Dean loves his brother—he always has, always will—but Sam’s just so friggin’ vulnerable right now. It makes Dean’s insides hurt, but Dean still knows that he can’t let his own worry for Sam distract him from the job. He’ll get them both killed that way…
He and Sam broke the world…they’re going to fix it. But Dean isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to be what Sam needs him to be.
Dean pours a salt line around the perimeter of the clearing before coming back to his brother. Sam is hanging in there. The wound finally stopped bleeding but it’s red and swollen around the edges.
Dean offers Sam a drink and waits to make sure he’s keeping it down. “Okay, let’s think. What did we do that pissed off a fairy?”
Sam frowns, wiping off his mouth with his sleeve. “We were being careful. I didn’t see any fairy mounds…no fairy circles. Hey—maybe it was that tree…”
“Um, Sammy? We’re surrounded by trees—cursed forest, remember?”
“No, before they put their mojo on the forest. Remember the branch you broke off that oak tree…the one you used it to poke that nest—”
Dean looks at Sam, exasperated. “Fairies don’t live in nests. They don’t lay eggs.”
“Come on, Dean—think. It could’ve been a fairy tree. Irish lore says that if two trees are twined together and one of them is an oak, they’re venerated by fairies and—”
Dean cuts him short. “Okay—I pissed off a fairy by messing with its tree. That still doesn’t tell us how to get out of this.”
Sam sighs and tilts his head back. Dean can tell he’s thinking. He can also tell that Sam’s in pain. He wishes he had more to offer than the last two Tylenol in his pack.
“I can’t remember. I’m just not thinking right. Dad used to talk about how they hold grudges…they use glamours a lot, mess with time …but I just don’t remember. I know they don’t like iron or salt…”
“Little bastards can’t even be original,” Dean gripes. “God, I hate fairies.”
Dean finishes wrapping gauze around Sam’s stomach. The ferns took a big chunk out of his side but somehow missed his major organs and arteries, something Dean is very grateful for. As always, Sam getting hurt makes everything else fall by the wayside, but Dean knows he’s got to stay focused.
Dad always taught them that if they fell into enemy hands, the first thing they need to do is take stock of their surroundings. Figure out what they’re up against. Dean seriously doubts that Dad ever had to go up against killer ferns.
He hands Sam his .45 and says he’ll be right back. He’s got to scout things out, see if there’s any obvious way out of a damn enchanted forest.
He doesn’t go far and tries to stay away from plants, which isn’t easy. The undergrowth is thick and obscenely green—almost like the highlighter pen Sam uses on his research. He doesn’t see any animals or bugs, but the plants are all moving, stretching, crawling. He’s pretty sure they’re sentient because when he aims his gun at them, they back off.
He’s not comfortable leaving Sam alone for this long so he makes his way back to the clearing. Sam has himself propped up against the log, gun drawn. Dean immediately goes on alert by the look on his brother’s face. Something’s got Sam freaked out.
“Do you hear that?” Sam hisses at him.
Dean can’t hear a thing but he knows that Sam’s affair with demon blood has done wonders for his senses. Dean knows Sam can hear and see things that Dean doesn’t. It creeps him out, but they don’t talk about it. There’s not much that’s safe to talk about these days. Just the hunt for Lucifer and whatever it takes to stay alive.
“No. What is it?”
“Singing,” Sam says. “Bells, maybe—something chiming?”
Dean swears under his breath. They’d both heard bells chiming before they’d been swallowed up by fog and dropped into this forest. Music is a classic harbinger, but it rarely means a fairy is happy to see them.
“What do you hear?”
“There’s something else. Voices.”
“No, like people voices. Like kids.”
“Crap.” Dean reaches for his gun. “So we’re talking about kid fairies?”
The fog is getting thicker. It’s a living thing with tendrils and drifts, snaking between them and around them. For a second, Dean can’t see Sam, and it makes him panic and grope for his brother.
But then there’s an echo—only younger and more scared and Dean has no idea what’s going on.
“I’m over here…Dean…”
That voice—it’s got to be some kind of freakin’ fairy glamour because Dean would know that voice anywhere. It’s impossible—maybe they’re not dealing with fairies at all. Maybe they’re dealing with badass demons or a trickster or even Lucifer himself because it’s not possible that the little boy voice could belong to anyone else but—
“Sammy?” Dean whispers.
As if summoned, two boys stumble out of nothing right in front of him…they’re reborn out of thin air, mist, and vapor. The boys are choking and gulping in air, hanging on each other to stay upright.
Dean takes a step forward, even though he can hear Sam shouting for him, lost somewhere in the fog.
Long bangs hanging over suspicious eyes, stupid flannel shirt that was always two sizes too big, dimples that showed up even when the little geek wasn’t even smiling.
But Sammy isn’t alone. There’s an older kid next to him who immediately steps in front of the boy. He can’t be much older than sixteen, but Dean would know the punk anywhere. Hell, Dean spent enough time as a teenager checking himself out in the rear view mirror.
“Holy crap,” Dean says, and to his terror and irritation, the teenager says the same thing at the same time. Like funhouse gunslingers, they both go for their guns, cocking the hammers as they get each other in their sights.
But the little boy…it’s Sammy—has to be…grabs for the teenager’s arm, just as Dean feels a familiar grip on his own, slamming down the hand holding the gun.
“What the hell?” Sam says with complete shock in his voice, and that’s how Dean knows that he’s not hallucinating.
Dad was so, so right. Never screw with fairies…
Sammy keeps saying it until they’re all ready to throttle him.
“I can’t believe I’m so tall. When do I get so tall?”
“God, Sammy, shut up,” snaps his brother. “We’re not even sure if it’s you yet.”
But Sam is sure. He has been sure of it since the two Deans drew on each other in the fog. Since then, they’ve been fact checking—going over lore and embarrassing tidbits of Winchester trivia that only family would know. Most seem to involve Sam. There’s no end to the lifelong smackdown of being a little brother.
Yes—Sam sucked his two middle fingers until he was six years old.
Yes—Sam used to play with little Lego guys on the floor of the Impala while they drove, making entire worlds out of pillows and blankets.
Yes—Sam read Anne of Green Gable for his fifth grade book report. Twice.
And yes…Sammy, at age eleven, still crawls in bed with Dean when he can’t sleep.
The last bit mortifies the boy so much that he is about to stomp off into the woods until his brother orders him not to go any further. Sammy stops, but Sam doesn’t remember being all that compliant. But he’s right. The woods are deep and dangerous, and the fairies apparently don’t like Winchesters at any age.
This Sammy is eleven-years-old. This Dean is fifteen.
And even though he’s hurting, Sam can’t take his eyes off the two boys. Watching the two of them is like watching a home movie, except for the fact that John Winchester never owned a camcorder in his life. The only time Sam has seen himself in a video is on surveillance tapes.
It’s funny because Sam doesn’t remember being this small, even though he does remember being eleven. No wonder Dean was such a pain in the ass, insisting on keeping track of him every minute of every day.
But Sam remembers this Dean too well…
At fifteen, Dean was the rock and foundation of Sam’s world. He was larger than life.
He’s not as tall as Sam remembers.
The kid has been pacing, all constrained energy and tension, only stopping to keep Sammy from going exploring in the carnivorous forest. They’re still running through the basics of who/what/where/when—how the hell did this happen—when the teenager takes another look at Dean.
“Where’s my amulet?”
Sam tenses up right away. It’s a sore subject. Sam knows it has been driving Dean crazy not to have the amulet hanging around his neck. Sometimes, Sam thinks Dean misses the necklace more than he misses Sam…
Past tense—missed him—Sam reminds himself. They’re together now. Sometimes, it’s harder to remember now than it was when they were apart.
Dean scowls. “An angel took it.”
Terrific. The last thing they need is for these two kids to learn the truth about angels. Sammy still believes angels are watching over him while he sleeps.
Sam says, “Don’t tell them anything.”
But neither of them are paying any attention to him now. They’re actually facing off with each other again.
“I’m not an idiot. You’re telling me a freakin’ angel took my amulet. You lost it, didn’t you?”
“Okay, you better shut your cakehole because I’m about to kick your ass. God, why didn’t anyone tell me I was such a dick?”
“I did,” Sam says, but they’re really not listening to him.
It is all very weird and it might even be funny, if not for the fact that Sam is in no condition to break up a fight between Dean and…Dean.
“Angels kind of have this thing about necklaces,” Sam tries to explain, thinking of Anna’s grace hanging from a ridiculous chain around Uriel’s neck.
“I can’t believe you lost it. I would never do anything like that!”
“It was a present. I gave that to him…to you.”
They all turn and look at Sammy, who is staring wide-eyed and hurt at Dean.
Dean’s glare softens, and his smile is gentle in a way that Sam hasn’t seen for a long time. It actually hurts more than his missing pound of flesh.
“Hey, buddy,” Dean says. “It’s okay. The amulet’s safe. And guess what? Turns out that Christmas present of yours might save the world.”
“Awesome,” Sammy breathes.
And that hurts too.
Sam closes his eyes because it’s too much work keeping them open. He might be drifting off when a familiar hand lifts his shirt, not bothering to ask permission. He is ready to push Dean away because whatever he’s doing, it really hurts—but when he opens his eyes, he realizes that it’s not his Dean who is fussing at him.
Instead, the kid is crouched beside him, fingers running over Sam’s ribs and chest and behind his back, poking and prodding around the wound.
“Tell me what happened,” he says, and Sam is surprised at the authority in his voice at this age.
They’ve already been over the story of the killer ferns, but Sam can tell that this Dean is going to want to hear it again.
“I’m fine,” Sam says and tries to pull his shirt back down, but the kid grabs his hand.
“Bullshit. You’re bleeding.”
Dean is suddenly there looming over them, and Sam can tell it’s taking all his brother’s self-control not to get in between them.
“I already cleaned out the wound,” Dean says.
“You did a crap job of it. Did you put anything on it?”
Those are fighting words, and they all know it. But Dean keeps it together.
“Yeah, I put something on it. I poured peroxide on it and flushed it with holy water.”
“What about Neosporin? It’s a bite. It’s gonna get infected.”
Dean says grimly, “We don’t have any Neosporin.”
“You took Sammy on a hunt without packing a kit?”
That’s enough. Sam has to speak up. “Hey, dude, I’m Sam—not Sammy. I’m a whole lot older than you, and I’m fine. Chill, okay? You guys don’t need to mark your territory.”
They aren’t even listening. The kid lets go of Sam’s hand and says, “Let’s rinse out the wound with more holy water.”
“It’s not demonic,” Dean retorts.
“Holy water can’t hurt.”
“Yeah, but if it’s not going to help, there’s no point in wasting it.”
“Are you saying that we’d be wasting it? What the hell is wrong with you? Since when do we take that kind of chance on Sammy?”
Sam wants to correct him—it’s Sam, not Sammy—and he tries to sit up straighter against the log. But the little boy kneels next to him, laying a small hand on Sam’s shoulder. He shakes his head.
Not yet. Wait for him to get over it. Sammy kind of shrugs, and Sam gets it. Welcome to my world.
Sam had forgotten about the fervor of Dean’s protectiveness. But for Sammy, it’s just the way it is. Sammy expects it. He puts up with it. He breathes that kind of love like air.
Sam doesn’t want to be Dean’s albatross. He doesn’t want to be the weight that breaks Dean for good. But God help him, Sam misses this. He misses his brother so damn much.
“Why didn’t you stitch it up?” the kid is asking.
“I told you—most of the supplies are in the car. We weren’t even on a job. We were just checking out a fairy sighting…”
“The Impala? Is…is Dad with you?”
“No,” Dean says. “He’s not.”
Sammy takes his hand off Sam. “Where’s our dad?” he asks in a tight little voice.
Dean looks miserable, but he crouches next to Sammy.
“Look…um…it’s probably better if we don’t talk about the future—your future, I mean. We…uh…don’t want to mess up the…um…the space time continuum.”
“That’s from Star Trek,” Sammy says darkly. “It’s not real.
Sam can’t help it. He snorts, and everyone turns to stare at him. That makes it worse, and he starts to laugh—but it hurts, and before he knows it, he’s hanging over the log, puking his guts out.
There is a light hand on his back, just resting and waiting until he gets himself together. Sam is expecting it to be the kid—the one who still believes Sam’s life is his birthright.
But it’s not. It’s Dean—Sam’s Dean, and he’s worried as hell.
“Maybe we should try more holy water,” Dean says.
Before Sam closes his eyes, he notices Sammy’s unsmiling face taking it all in. Dear God, he had been such a ridiculously serious little kid. Sam wishes he could tell Sammy to ease up. Just be a kid while he still can.
There’s really no point in living for the future.
Dean and the idiot kid are on reconnaissance together, but he’s starting to understand what Bobby meant when he told Dean once that he was his own worst enemy.
But honestly, Dean doesn’t remember being such a dick when he was fifteen. The kid is furious with him, convinced that Dean screwed up and let Sam get hurt. It’s not like Dean tried to get Sam hurt—even with everything that’s between them, there is nothing closer to hell on earth than Sam’s blood on his hands.
Dean hadn’t done enough research before he and Sam took on the fairy job, hadn’t interviewed enough witnesses… hadn’t scouted out the location ahead of time. They walked in blind, and Dean does blame himself for that. Just because the job wasn’t part of the apocalypse didn’t mean they should have underestimated it.
God help him, but Dean’s just not sure he can do this any more.
“Why did you let him go off by himself?”
“Dude—did you get a look at Sam? He’s not a little kid. He can take care of himself.”
“You could’ve stopped him,” the idiot says again and gestures at the trees that are ominously shuffling around them. “It’s obvious this isn’t exactly a normal forest.”
“Look, man. We’re talking about Sam. You know what a klutz he is, right? Well, now his feet are like aircraft carriers—he steps on everything. How was I supposed to know that him stepping on a fern would piss it off? Who the hell knows that sort of thing ahead of time?”
“You’re not hurt.”
Dean has to clench his fists so he doesn’t kill him. “Do you think I just stood back and let Sam get taken out by a fern? Dude—I pulled the thing off him and shot the hell out of it. It’s not like we’re talking about some pansy-ass fern growing in a pot—the thing was freakin’ primordial!”
“That’s why you should’ve been more careful….” the kid says, still scowling. “And you know what…I don’t buy any of your sci-fi crap, like you’re gonna mess up the universe if you tell us anything. Where’s Dad? Why isn’t he with you? What the hell’s going on?”
The kid sounds furious, but Dean hears the raw fear in his voice. Dean knows what the kid is carrying and it’s a heavy load—staying alive, saving civilians, but always, always taking care of Sam. And Dean’s got to admit that the kid has done better job of keeping Sammy safe for his first eleven years of life than Dean has done for the past four.
Dean softens his voice. “Okay, listen up, asshole. I’ll tell you some of what’s going on, but you can’t tell Sammy. You gotta promise. It’s to protect him.”
“Yeah…okay—I promise. So where’s Dad?”
Dean sighs. At fifteen, he still believed that Dad could fix anything.
“Dad’s not here—he’s not hunting any more. It’s me and Sam now—we hunt together. Look man, I really don’t think I should tell you more. I don’t know what any of us are gonna remember when we get back, and I don’t want to screw things up more than I already have.”
“What did you do?” The kid’s voice is finally stripped of all that idiotic bravado. “How did you screw things up?”
“Kid, I wouldn’t even know where to begin?”
“Don’t call me kid.”
Dean’s about to make a smartass comment but he sees something out of the corner of his eye, and he doesn’t have time to shout out a warning before a swath of freakin’ groundcover…tiny white flowers and all…sort of ripples over the forest duff, and before Dean knows what’s going on, the thing has taken the kid down and is wrapping itself around his leg.
Dean tries pulling the plant off, but he can’t get a good grip on it. The leaves are all wet and slimy from the damp air, but there are vines and tendrils creeping from the fermenting soil underneath it. Another patch is crawling toward the kid’s neck, way too close to his nose and mouth.
Dean swears and pulls out his Colt, firing a round of rock salt into the damn flowers, aiming as far away from the kid as he can. He’s about to fire off another round, when the whole thing seems to seize and quiver. Then the groundcover lets go of the kid with a steaming hiss.
It might be dead—it suddenly smells like the compost pile Sam had kept as a science experiment in eight grade. One way or another, it’s not coming after them any more. Dean helps pull the kid out of the mess it leaves behind.
Once he’s on his feet again, the kid tries to catch his breath.
But he looks at Dean and says, “That was awesome.”
Yeah. It kind of was.
“C’mon,” Dean says, clapping him on the back. “We gotta get back. Maybe we’ll get lucky and get attacked by a couple shrubs on the way.”
Dean doesn’t have to look at the kid to see that his smile is wide-open.
Sam isn’t thinking all that clearly, so he’s trying hard to work through what he already knows.
They pissed off a bunch of fairies. There are now two Deans who kind of hate each other. The two Deans have been gone way too long scouting in a forest that is apparently trying to kill them. Sam is alone with his eleven-year-old self, who would hate him if he knew what Sam has done.
And Sam is pretty much screwed. He’s now sure there was poison in that fern, and it’s working its way through his body. It could kill him. There are plenty of plants that can kill you. They don’t usually attack people—that’s a new one—but plants can carry viruses, cause tumors, or even attack red blood cells. Any one of those things could be what’s happening now.
But Lucifer said he’d just bring Sam back....
It’s a little tempting to see if fallen angels can have their way in this fairy-cursed world.
Surprising him, Sammy says, “You need to drink something.”
The boy is right—Sam doesn’t remember ever being so thirsty. He takes the canteen and drinks for longer than he should. He’s not at all sure he can keep it down, and he tries not to gag before he hands it back.
“You have a fever.”
“I’m okay,” Sam says automatically.
The boy rolls his eyes. “I suck at lying.”
Sam manages a smile. “Trust me—you’ll get better at it.” Which isn’t a very nice thing to say to a kid who didn’t ask for any of this.
“Shouldn’t they be back by now?” Sammy asks for what might well be the hundredth time. It’s no wonder Dad used to threaten to leave Sam on the side of the road, when he wouldn’t lay off with the questions. Dad used to say that he was like a border collie with a ball stuck in a tree once he got his mind fixed on something.
“I’m sure they’re fine. Really.”
“But it’s been a long time.”
“It takes time to look around.”
“Don’t you worry that they won’t come back?”
Sam knows what the boy is asking him. Sam worries about Dean all the time, but it’s nothing like the childhood terror of knowing how easily he could be alone in this world. It was part of the reason why Sam prayed so much. He didn’t want to be an orphan.
Sam wishes he could tell this boy that everything will be all right…but the world is full of monsters. Every time he looks in a mirror, Sam sees that truth staring back at him.
“I still worry,” Sam admits. With a groan, he rolls over onto his good side, trying to find a position that is bearable.
“You’re really sick, aren’t you?”
Sam can’t lie about this—the boy would see right through it. “Don’t tell him…Dean, I mean. He needs to worry about getting us out of here…can’t do it if he’s worrying about me.”
“He can’t help it.”
“Trust me, I know. Really. I’ve lived with the guy all my life.”
“Yeah…me too,” Sammy says absent-mindedly, and that’s when Sam realizes that the boy is looking for something in a little patch of grass growing under the log.
“You shouldn’t touch anything that’s alive. We don’t know what’s dangerous.”
“I’m looking for a four-leaf clover. They poke holes in fairy glamours and protect you from evil spells.”
Sam would smile at the boy’s freakish earnestness if it didn’t hurt. No wonder Dean has called him a geek his entire life. “Do you really think this is a glamour?”
Sammy shrugs. “Maybe. That’s usually how fairies work.”
“That fern almost gutted me. This isn’t an illusion.”
“Glamours are real,” Sammy says. “Mortals just can’t see through them. Maybe we can’t see the door because the fairies are blocking it.”
Sam’s teeth are chattering now—he doesn’t remember it being so damn cold even just a little while ago. “Where’d you learn a word like ‘mortals’?”
“Puck calls people mortals. It means we have to die.”
“Only if we’re lucky,” Sam says dryly, and the boy frowns.
“What do you mean?”
Again, Sam feels guilty—he’s letting pain wear him down, but he needs to be more careful about what he says.
“I’m sorry…I…you played Puck this year in school, didn’t you? Are you guys still living with Pastor Jim?”
“Just till Dad gets back.” Sammy stares at him, suddenly suspicious. “Does something happen to Dad? He’s on a job…but he’s supposed to come back next week.”
“He comes back just fine. He’s just a little…late. What are you doing out here? Dad wouldn’t have let you go on a hunt by yourselves.”
“We’re not on a hunt. I’m just trying to get my badge.” Sammy looks irritated. “My camping badge…you know…for Boy Scouts. Don’t you remember? I want to be an Eagle Scout by the time I’m sixteen.”
Sam knows for damn sure he has never been a Boy Scout, let alone an Eagle Scout. He’d only wanted to be one.
“Sorry, I really don’t remember Dean trying to help me get a badge. But I don’t know how fairy curses work—maybe they change things.”
Sammy wiggles his big toe that is poking through a hole in his tattered sneakers. “Took me forever to talk Dean into it. He’s never going to take me camping again. Just thought if I was gonna spend so much time doing Dad’s stupid crap, I might as well get some credit for it. But, I think my campfire made the fairies mad. But I was supposed to build it by myself, and I couldn’t find a good spot....”
“So you found a clearing?” Sam asks, already knowing what the answer is going to be. He would have done the exact same thing himself.
Sammy sighs. “A perfect circle. I built a campfire in a stupid fairy circle. Dean’s gonna kill me once he figures it out.”
Sam wills himself not to smile. “It could’ve happened to anyone.”
“That’s not how Dean sees it. This sort of thing only happens to me.”
Sam flinches—he knows the feeling. “Is he mad at you? You know—for pissing off the fairies?”
Sammy looks at him like he’s crazy. “You know Dean…he never stays mad at me for long.”
It’s a little embarrassing how much Dean has enjoyed spending the afternoon with himself. They haven’t found anything that will get them out of this damn forest, but they had a great time shooting the photosynthesis out of every plant that even looked at them funny.
When they finally stumble back into the camp, Sammy runs over to them. It does something funny to Dean’s stomach to see him.
It’s like this little boy is the real Sam, and the grown-up Sam is just some changeling that Ruby left on his doorstep when he got back from hell.
It’s an unforgivable thought. He pushes it away immediately, and he feels even worse when he hears his own Sam groaning. Sam is lying right where Dean left him. But Sammy has his hands on either side of young Dean’s chest and shoves him hard. Caught off guard, the kid lands with a thud onto the ground.
“What the hell?” the kid sputters, even as Dean grabs hold Sammy to keep him from kicking his counterpart in the balls. But the boy is a sneaky little bastard, and wriggles out of Dean’s grasp. Sammy whirls around and kicks Dean hard in the shin.
Dean is about to grab him, when he hears Sam calling. “Dean—you back?”
Sammy looks like he’s going to kick him again. “You’re late!”
In a weak voice, Sam calls over, “We were worried, you assholes.”
Sammy glares. “He’s really sick, and he doesn’t want you to know.”
Dean forgets all about his aching shin—he goes straight to Sam and crouches next to him. He doesn’t like the way his brother looks. Sam is pale and shivering, soaked through to the skin. Even though the afternoon is mild, Dean can tell that Sam is burning up.
He lets his hand rest on his brother’s shoulder. “Hey Sam… hate to tell you this, but you had a real bad temper as a kid.”
“Funny,” Sam says and closes his eyes.
Dean really doesn’t like this. He presses two fingers against Sam’s carotid and does a count. Way too fast.
Dean snaps over his shoulder, “We need to get his feet up. Now!”
The other two know the drill—Shock 101. Sammy grabs his own backpack and props it under Sam’s feet. Young Dean finds a blanket in Sam’s pack and spreads it over him.
“I’m okay,” Sam says, eyes still closed.
“Sure you are,” Dean says lightly. “Don’t worry—none of us are going to let you get taken out by a fern. We don’t want Sammy scarred for life.”
“Right back at you, dude. I’m just gonna check you out. You’re okay. Hold still for me, okay?”
Dean unbuttons Sam’s flannel shirt. The bandage is already soaked through with blood and puss and some green discharge that Dean doesn’t want to even think about. He reaches for Sam’s wrist to get a pulse and swears under his breath. Sam’s hands are ice cold.
“How bad is it?” Sam asks quietly.
Dean sighs. “It’s not good.”
Sam tries to lift his head and look at the wound. “I’m sure there was something…a toxin, poison…I don’t know. Feels like my blood’s boiling in my veins.”
“Dad would know what to do,” Sammy says.
Young Dean nods. “Something’s wrong. What aren’t you telling us? Even if you’re not hunting with Dad anymore, he’d be able to help.”
Dean rubs his eyes, weary to the bone. “We don’t have time to talk about this. Sam’s gonna go septic if we don’t get this under control.”
He would gladly trade the Impala for a week’s worth of antibiotics right now.
“I’ve got a cross in my backpack,” Sammy offers. “I could make some more holy water if you want.”
Sam reaches for the boy, moaning at the effort. “Your clover idea...”
Dean raises an eyebrow. “A little random, dude.”
But Sammy asks Sam, “Do you want me to keep looking?”
Sam nods, closing his eyes. “Might help.”
Sammy explains, “Four leaf clovers work against fairies. If we could find one, maybe it would protect him from their curses.”
Dean is so tired. There is a part of him that is tempted to lie down next to Sam and let whatever is going to happen just go ahead and happen. But the two kids are staring, waiting for him to give instructions. Everyone is always assuming that somehow, he’ll know what to do. Dean isn’t sure about any of it—he has no idea where he’s going.
Sam’s lip is split and bleeding—he must have bitten it, trying to ride out the pain. Dean uses his sleeve to wipe it off and isn’t happy that Sam doesn’t even bother trying to swat him off.
“He needs antibiotics, but I guess four-leaf clovers can’t hurt.” Dean motions to the other two. “Stay together. Don’t go far. Don’t pick anything until you fire a round at it to make sure it won’t attack.”
Sammy pouts. “If Dean shoots at it, then it won’t be a four leaf clover any more. It’ll just be mulch.”
Dean snorts—his kid brother really should’ve been a lawyer. “He’ll be careful. He’s… had some practice.”
Dean and the teenager exchange a look that only means one thing—take care of Sam. Sure enough, the kid has Sammy’s back as they head into the forest.
Dean feels Sam’s grip tighten on his knee.
“Dean…” Sam says, “Maybe this is for the best. You should…just try and get them back to their own world. Maybe you should try and go with them instead of—”
“What dumbass thing are you trying to tell me?”
Sam looks even more miserable. “You should go with them—no apocalypse, Lucifer still in his cage. That way, you’d have some time…I don’t know. You could listen to Dad and stop it from happening.”
“And I’m supposed to say what—hey Dad, it’s me—Dean. Where did I leave Sam? Oh, I left him dying in some freakin’ fairy forest so I wouldn’t have to go back to the Apocalypse. How the hell do you think that’s gonna go over, Sam?”
“He—Dad told you to kill me.”
“He told me to save you. And that’s what I’m going to do.” Sam’s eyes are closing, and Dean grabs his hand and squeezes it viciously hard. “If I kill you…if I let you die, it’s over for me. Do you get that?”
“Then let me do it. I could try it here…he—Lucifer—might not be able to find me here. Maybe that’s what the fairies want…”
“That’s bullshit, Sam. Just shut up.”
But Sam is crying openly, obviously worn out and in pain. Dean tries to remember the last time Sam openly cried and can’t. They are so screwed in so many ways, but there’s a part of Dean that is relieved.
“I’m sorry. I’ve tried…I’ve tried so hard.” He wipes at his eyes but only smears dirt and blood across his cheek.
“You giving up, Sammy?”
“Billions of people, Dean. Think of all the people maybe I could save just by—”
“Never figured you for a coward.” Dean has no doubt that Sam would be slamming him into a tree if he had the strength for it.
“Shut the fuck up, Dean.”
“No.” Dean doesn’t even bothering wiping his own eyes. “No. It’s a chickenshit thing to do, and I would never, ever forgive you for it. You listen to me—you screwed the world. You better stick around and help me fix it.”
“Go to hell.”
Dean is strangely relieved that Sam has forgotten that they don’t say that to each other any more.
“Awkward,” Dean says, softening it with a smile. “Already been there, done that.”
Sam’s lips twitch a little. “I’m sorry.”
“Sam, I want you to listen to me. We’re gonna get out of this, and we’re gonna get those kids back where they belong with Dad. They can screw up our lives all over again. Then you and me are gonna get back to the real world, and we’re gonna fight. That’s the way we’re going out.” Dean gestures impatiently at the woods surrounding them. “Not gonna die in a fairy forest—it’s just not gonna happen.”
Dean holds his breath. He’ll tie Sam down if he needs to, but he’s praying it won’t come to that.
Sam wipes his eyes again, making even more of a mess of his face, with tears and snot all over. But then he smiles, just a little, and it’s so unexpected that Dean takes it as grace.
“Jerk,” Sam whispers, before his eyes start to close, and he’s asleep before Dean can say his part.
So Dean just sits there and holds Sam’s hand.
The fog is everywhere—dense and cold and gray, inside his mind and out of it. Sam can hide here. When he’s in the fog, nothing really hurts any more.
He thinks he hears the fairies. There are laughter and bells, and Sam would follow them, but then they would know who he is—what he is. They won’t want him once they know.
Sam thinks he’s opening his eyes, but the pain comes back in a tongue of fire, and Sam is floating over his own body, burning. His blood is boiling under his skin, he feels like his guts are being turned inside out, and someone is screaming.
Then, there’s water—on his lips, in his mouth, down his throat. He wants to gag, but there’s a hand under his chin, forcing his mouth closed.
“You gotta drink it, bro. Keep it down.”
“Clover juice isn’t gonna help if he pukes it back up again.”
“Do you think I don’t know that? Shit, he’s burning up—”
“We’re almost out.”
“You’re okay… don’t fight me. You’re okay, Sam. Come on—hold on. Hey Sammy, I need more of your clover crap…”
“We’re almost out. Sammy and I can find some more. You have to make him drink it.”
“Doing my best here….”
Sam doesn’t want to drink what’s being forced into his mouth. But he’s stuck—he can’t get away. There are hands everywhere, making him drink, holding him down, rubbing the back of his neck. Sam would fight them off, but he can’t keep hurting everyone he loves. Such a fool, thinking he could save the world when he was created to destroy it.
Sam was baptized with hellfire, but he still doesn’t know if fire and brimstone is literal or figurative. Sam never asked, and Dean never said… figures he’ll find out soon enough. He’s burning now.
“God, Sam, please keep it down…”
Dean can’t watch Sam suffer. He’s not wired that way. There’s got to be some way to make it better, but it’s going to be dark soon, and he can’t send the boys back into the forest. Sammy and the kid found a bunch of four-leaf clovers, something Dean thought unlikely until the kid did point out that they’re in a freakin’ fairy forest, so who knows…
They mashed it up and mixed it with holy water, something Dean is fervently hoping isn’t going to make it worse. But miraculously…improbably…Sam seems to be a little better.
It was touch and go just a while ago. Sam’s fever spiked so high that Dean worried he would start having seizures—Dean never wants to go through that particular hell again. But they forced more and more of the clover crap down his throat, and little by little, the fever came down. Sam is still hot, but he’s not burning up any more.
Young Dean is off filling up the canteens and looking for more clover. Sammy wanted to go too, but they wouldn’t let him. No sense in taking unnecessary chances if they don’t have to. Dean desperately wanted to go with them though. He doesn’t know how to do this—how to watch Sam suffer when there’s so little he can do for him. But he can’t leave his brother. He was a fool to ever think he could.
Sammy has been sitting off to the side, organizing the contents of his backpack and occasionally getting up to check on Sam. Dean notices though that the boy keeps looking over at him. Finally he comes over and sits next to Dean on the log.
“What’s going on, kiddo?” Dean asks, keeping his tone lighter than he feels. It takes everything he’s got not to mess with Sammy’s tangles—the kid is a mess, but this Sammy doesn’t belong to him any more.
“What did Sam do that’s so bad?”
Dean feels his stomach clench, and he wonders what signals he’s been giving out. “Nothing. Everything’s fine—other than the obvious in the middle of a curse crap.”
Sammy shakes his head. “Something’s wrong. Dean thinks so too.”
Dean sighs. “Look—we were having a fight for a while, but it’s over. It has nothing to do with you.”
“But he’s me. If he did something to make you mad, that just means I’m going to do it too.”
Logically, Dean knows that this makes sense, but he can’t get his head around it. “It’s not that simple.”
“You always say that.”
Does he? Maybe he does.
But there’s something about Sammy’s bitchy little frown…. When Dean was a kid, it used to piss him off. But it’s been so long since he’s seen it, and it’s so achingly familiar…
Dean does something he would never have done when he was fifteen. He reaches down and grabs Sammy in a fierce hug. When Sammy looks at him like he’s lost his mind, Dean shoves the boy back a little and playfully scruffs up his hair.
“Well then, you should listen to me,” Dean finishes up.
Twigs snap and leaves crunch. Dean turns and sees the teenage idiot stalking toward them.
“What’s going on? Did you just push him?”
They stare incredulously at young Dean, and thank God—Sammy starts laughing first.
Of course, that pisses the kid off. “C’mon. You need to brush your teeth.”
“Are you serious?” Sammy asks.
“Toothbrushes are in my backpack. Now, Sammy—get your ass in gear.”
Sammy flips his brother off as soon as his back is turned and mutters under his breath, “Jerk.”
Young Dean calls over his shoulder, “Bitch.”
And Dean misses his own brother more than ever.